Friday, November 29, 2013

Pieuvre Echotalk

I hope everyone enjoyed National Turkey Genocide Day. Personal, I could not approve of Thanksgiving more: stuffing and gravy all day, and a culling of the nastiest, most vicious, and ugliest game fowl this side of the Equator.

Let's just say I've had some less-than-pleasant experiences with turkeys.

 I don't have much to say about Pieuvre Echotalk. He's a Japanese punk artist from the Southern Japanese city Fukuoka.That's all the info I can find on him. Guiguisuisui introduced me to him. Echotalk's fuzzed out pop belongs squarely in the early '90s, like all things that are awesome. I just wished he belonged over here in the States.

Pieuvre Echotalk -- Soundcloud , Twitter (Japanese, duh)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman -- We Made It Home

You might as well drop what you're doing and listen to We Made It Home, because it's hands-down one of the best albums of 2013.

It's not just the duet's obvious chemistry, though that never hurts. Recently married, the two highly respected musicians released We Made It Home together. The pair have an incredible emotional and musical range. "We Made It Home" conveys the joy of the couple's journey. Meanwhile, "Billy the Champ" is about a chimp in Melody's local zoo (for real.) Groopman's everyman voice is raucous "Come On Mule" digs deep into his personal country roots. The real standout is "Black Grace," a (secular) gospel song that is 500% guaranteed to make the hairs on your arms stand up.

Thanksgiving came a day early. You're welcome. Now get on this, people.

Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman -- Official, Facebook, Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby, Name your price on Bandcamp

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Porch Cat and the Fairweather Family -- Crooked Soul

As much as I love lesbian culture blog Autostraddle (particularly their Sunday sexy tumblr roundup), I usually give their music articles a wide berth. For the most part, it's hip hop and electronica and the usual hipster claptrap. They even admitted as such (though, you know, proudly) when they opened up a position for a new music writer (guess who didn't get a callback?)

But one day (September 25, approximately), as I perused the site for the aforementioned sexy tumblr pictures, I came across these chilling words:

"Did you know folk punk is a genre?"

Why is that a problem?

Because lesbians gentrify everything. Let's face it. If lesbians think it's cool, the mainstream will follow suit. We're in ur menswear stores, modeling your clothes. We're in ur neighborhoods, gentrifying them so you don't have to (Park Slope ca. 1980, anyone?) We're even in ur politics, running red-state cities, supporting dictatorial mayors, and even marrying mayor-elects.

And then everyone follows suit.

So are we gonna bring folk punk back?

Meh. I dunno. But Porch Cat and the Fairweather Family sure make pretty noises.

Porch Cat, et. all have a down-homey feel that ingeniously masks their devious lyrics. It's obvious to anyone with half a brain that these cats (ha. I'm smart.) have a great time playing together. My hands-down favorite of the album is "Devil Called My Name," just because it ventures to be bold. The rest requires a little more digging, which is very much worth the effort. You can name your price on Bandcamp, and while you're waiting for the download, you can read Autostraddle's interview with Porch Cat here.

Porch Cat and the Fairweather Family -- Facebook, tumblr, Bandcamp

Ryan Dishen -- New Windows

As I've mentioned earlier, I have a rather lengthy "to do" list of music. That means that by the time I get around to writing about something, it's been about two months since I listened to it. Sometimes I say to myself, "Why the hell did I agree to this? Ugh. Might as well see it through."

But it also means that my "seasons" are a little out of whack.

See, Ryan got in touch with me in late September. We had a bit of an Indian summer here in NYC. His San Francisco-tinged acoustic punk was perfect for watching the shadows get longer as fall approached.

Now winter is coming a bit prematurely (going down to 30 tonight? WTH?) but Dishen's work still fits the mood. It's a little melancholy, but it won't single-handedly give you SAD.

What's interesting to me is that, unlike many musicians who'd label themselves as folk punk, Dishen straddles the line quite easily. The lyrics and guitar work are very much rooted in country, but Dishen's voice can't exist anywhere outside of a punk rock club. The juxtaposition gives his songs -- which are finely crafted in their own right -- a sense of tension and urgency that lift them beyond the typical reformed rocker fare.

Ryan Dishen --Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, November 25, 2013

Brent Malin -- Two Trees

Brent Malin begins his album with a thunderous phrase uttered by no man ever before or since: I think I'll stay in Pittsburgh for a while.

Ha. Sorry. Maybe I should leave the comedy to the comedians.

Malin's second album, Two Trees, is good, wholesome roots rock'n'roll. His delivery is Zevon, but the lyrics are pure Mellencamp: straight-talking, down-to-earth, and rich with story.

It's hard for me to pick out any particular song on this album; they're all pieces that Malin has every right to be proud of. "The Gambler" manages to draw heavily from card-playing metaphors, but successfully avoid cliche. "I Don't Miss You When You're Gone" is as excellent a breakup song as any. If I had to choose, though, the title track, "Two Trees," is probably my favorite. It's honest and personal, and it's a stark reminder that life is long and worth the ride.

The Gambler

I Don't Miss You When You're Gone

Two Trees

Brent Malin -- Official, CDBaby, iTunes

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jeremy Squires -- When Will You Go...

Recently I've been watching/obsessing over Nashville. Now, stop it. I started because a good friend of mine, who doesn't really like country music, said she enjoyed the show...and the tunes. So I figured I might as well give it a shot. While the music doesn't necessarily blow me away (even with T Bone Burnett at the helm), and while I do enjoy watching all of the gorgeous people make eyes at each other (including Chip from Whose Line!), and the writing is amazing, what I find most fascinating about the show is the way the characters view music as a business proposition.

Sure, they all want to make good music. Sure, they all love making music. And yes, they want to record "real" long as it sells a bunch of records. They'll bang out songs to fill the album, because music is something they're good at it, even if their heart isn't in it.

And the reason that's fascinating to me is that I've been surrounding myself with artists like Jeremy Squires, who pour their souls into their microphones and will simply not accept mediocrity.

 Squires' songs often focus on his struggles with maintaining his mental health, so there's no emotional wishy-washiness here. But it's not just Squires' passion. Squires and his backup band are genius at taking what ought to be simple songs and tossing in a strange guitar riff or ear-catching harmonies. The result is beautiful and a little unsettling. It's the kind of music those Nashville hacks would give their strumming hands to write just once.

Jeremy Squires -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, CDBaby

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jay Woodward -- Letters We Told

There's something about Jay Woodward's Letters We Told that just seeps into your skin.

You'll hear that it's rather unusual fare for this blog, but I couldn't not be fascinated by Woodward's experimental acoustic music.

Jay may be based out of LA, but his Rochester upbringing clearly has a massive influence on the sonic landscape Woodward creates. While at first glance his rhythms may sound monotonous, there's all kinds of diversity and color as you look closer. (My friend at RIT can attest to this. He always complains about how bored he is up there but, to be honest, there are weekends when he has much more fun than I do.)

Letters We Told is dreamy, and at times a little bizarre ("Don't Fall Asleep" seriously creeps me out), but altogether unique. This blog is all about bringing attention to people who genuinely have stories to tell. Woodward is one of those people.

Jay Woodward -- Official, Facebook, Google+, Bandcamp

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

DK and the Joy Machine -- Love Harder

Before I begin with my usual captivating wit, I want to take a moment to recognize that this is officially Adobe & Teardrops' 301st article. Thanks for reading, taking the time to comment, liking on Facebook, giving suggestions, etc. etc.

I encountered DK at what is hands-down my favorite NYC event, Queer Country Monthly. (Cute butchies and country music. The only thing to make it perfect is if it happened during a teacher convention.) If you love live music (and you do) it is very much worth your while to attend. Don't worry, they don't check for your gay card at the door.

Back in September I had the privilege to see DK and her Joy Machine, which is to say her Appalachian dulcimer, perform. Here's my favorite song from the set (and maybe you can hear my obnoxious cheering in the background.)

DK's won awards the world over for her dulcimer playing. It may sound tinny on your computer speakers, and the video may not look like much, but sitting in a room of fifty or so completely silent people while listening to the unearthly sounds coming from that box was absolutely the most intense live music performance I've witnessed. It's not just her chops, though. DK brings a punk sensibility to traditional music that helps keep her craft fresh and vibrant.

As I write this, I'm waiting to hear back from DK to see if you can purchase the album online. In the meantime, you can stream from ReverbNation and download "Shy One."

DK and the Joy Machine --Facebook, ReverbNation

Friday, November 15, 2013

Adam Hill -- Little Time

When we last left our hero, Adam Hill had just written a tasty little country rock album called Banjo Moon, but he had become so frustrated by the music biz he was thinking of calling it quits.

I've often thought about Adam's blog post as I try to spread the good news of rock and roll throughout the Internet. Fortunately, Adam's still a member of the flock. However, the emotions that, I'm sure, prompted his self-doubt continued to linger and make Little Time a more somber affair than Banjo Moon.

But what's constant is Adam's honesty and his knack for combining strong melodies with lyrics that wrench your arm back and force you to pay attention. This is definitely an album for tea and an autumn twilight.

Adam Hill -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

LA Salami -- Another Shade of Blue

LA Salami cuts himself as a rather enigmatic figure. He very much embodies the British folk tradition, but is embracing new media in some really intriguing ways.

What you'll see below is not a music video. It's Salami's latest EP, Another Shade of Blue. As near as I can tell, it's only available as a video playlist that can be continuously streamed (though I suppose if you really wanted to, you could rip it. However, I definitely didn't say that.) To be honest, I didn't watch the videos with the songs. Near as I can tell, it's a few people hanging out in a flat. I'm sure it's related to the themes of detachment, estrangement, loneliness, love, and youth found here. Or it's just a video of Salami and his bros having a conversation. Which, of course, embodies all of these things.

So why would you really want to rip it? Because it's fantastic, that's why. Salami's lilting melodies and simplistic fingerpicking call Frank Turner to mind, but it's his hip hop-esque stream-of-consciousness delivery that distinguishes Salami. "Makes You Wonder," a song that's less a critique and more of a gentle chastening of our generation, would fit right at home in the catalog of any of your favorite Last Chance Records artists.

So while I'm ambivalent about the mixed media, the musical side of it is where it's at.

LA Salami -- Official, Facebook, Camouflage Recordings, Watch Another Shade of Blue

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Melaena Cadiz -- Love of Mine

I am hopelessly in love with Melaena Cadiz. She released an amazing album, Rattle the Windows, back in 2011. I'd been wondering what she's been up to since then. Turns out, she's releasing a new song every month. I suspect it will turn into a 12-song album.

I'll review the album thus far at a later date, but I wanted to let you know that the November song is out and it's suitably melancholy.

Melaena Cadiz -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interview: Star Anna

I got a chance to check in with Star Anna. Turns out she's got smarts as well as chops.
It seems to me like you're heavily influenced by grunge. Can you speak to how your hometown has influenced your musical tastes? What's it been like to work alongside some of your heroes?
Growing up in Ellensburg, I was lucky enough to be a teenager when Mark Pickerel (Screaming Trees, Truly, Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands) had Rodeo Records open. I spent most of my teen years and allowance at that record store. Mark turned me onto all sorts of music that I may have missed or taken a lot longer to find. Also I think my biggest inspiration has to be Mark Pickerels hair.
How did you begin writing music? Did you take a class, did you teach yourself music theory, did you rip off other peoples' songs?
I started writing music by just writing down the words. I never took classes for it, don’t know shit about music theory (which is a blessing and a curse), and I don’t know if ‘rip off’ would be the right word for it. If you love something, if it inspires you, then it’s going to creep its way into your work. Sometimes I would strive to capture something specific while writing a song, a certain feeling, theme, style. That only works out ¼ or less of the time.
What sources do you turn to for inspiration?
Well, I guess most obviously, my own life experiences. Part of my coping process is writing about trying times, hard experiences. I think that’s why I don’t have a lot of happy songs. I don’t need to work through ‘why am I so happy?’
I have written some songs that I have no literal experience with (Gold and Silver, Restless Water) but I later realize that parts of those songs are metaphors for something else going on in my life. If you just listen to the words of Restless Water, it’s about a serial killer making a confession. But on a less obvious level, it’s about being an outsider, being resentful and angry about it at times.
Also, Mark Pickerels hair.

You mix elements of punk, rock, and Americana together flawlessly. What is it about these three different genres that speaks to you, and how do you see them fitting together?
It’s not really an intentional thing. I would say those three genres are nearest and dearest to my heart (as well as soul, blues, r&b) so it gets embedded in me over a period of time and seeps out into my own writing.
 Punk rock and rock and roll got me through high school. It was about freedom and growing up and fucking up and trying new things (good and bad). It’s what led me to being a drummer that idolized Animal and Keith Moon, and falling head over heels for a guitar player that was a year older than me. It was the ripcord to my formative years.
I remember hearing Elliott Smith and Damien Jurado my junior year of high school, Cat Power, Uncle Tupelo, Jesse Sykes, that opened my eyes up to music that could have a folk/Americana, even country, without being bright and shiny and polished. It wasn’t the big hair and rhinestones I’d always associated with Americana.  It was visceral. It tapped into a place that the screaming, speeding, rebellious chants of punk rock couldn’t.  It’s right around that time that I picked up the guitar.
What do you think was the most surprising outcome of Go To Hell? (Sonically, emotionally, artistically -- I'll let you take that where you will.)
Honestly, the fact that we actually got it done and out to the world. It was real touch and go for most of it. In a nutshell it was this:
Record an entire album in the winter of 2011 (The Sky Is Falling: unreleased), break up the band, record three demos with a different band, realize it’s the start of the record that SHOULD be coming out next, find out my music partner/boyfriend is an insane con artist, cry for five days straight, stop crying for three months straight, in which time decide to blaze forward and finish the record (sans criminal), not have enough money, raise enough money, finally (almost two years after beginning the recording of what was supposed to be my solo record) Go To Hell is released.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Andrea Tomasi -- Hurricane Dream

Andrea Tomasi's Hurricane Dream holds a special significance for me, which may or may not have affected the way I received the album. Interestingly, the original recording session for the album was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene (this was about two summers ago, at roughly the same time there was that giant earthquake in DC. It took out a lot of upstate New York.) So instead, Tomasi and her engineers set up shop in the Shawangunk Mountains. The music is augmented by the birdsong of upstate New York.

My grandparents used to live up in Woodstock, so the background noise, combined with Tomasi's staggeringly beautiful lyrics (inspired by the great Pablo Neruda) and transcendent melodies calls to mind my happiest memories.

But even if you haven't played at the foot of the Catskills for hours, I hope it's enough to say that this record is dreamy without being New Age-y bullshit. Music is as much about taking you places you haven't been as it is about unlocking truths within yourself. Hurricane Dream  did both for me.


Hurricane Dream


Andrea Tomasi -- Official, Facebook, Buy From Team Love Records

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mark Utley -- Four Chords and a Lie

I kind of wonder when Mark Utley sleeps. In addition to releasing an album with his band, Magnolia Mountain, earlier this year, he also recorded a solo album that debuted at around the same time. Four Chords and a Lie features many members of Magnolia Mountain. Those of you keeping score at home may remember that I was a little underwhelmed by Beloved. I'm happy to say that it looks like all of the good mojo that went into Magnolia Mountain's most recent album was channeled into Four Chords and a Lie.

Four Chords and a Lie is more solidly country than any of the other subgenres Utley likes to draw upon. All ten of these songs feature a charm and confidence that's downright persuasive. "Not All Right Together" makes me want to make a bad decision, and "Little Black Dress" presents a very solid case for why bad decisions are often good ideas. The mellower songs, like "Blackbird on a Wire," add enough poise to the album to keep it from becoming sleazy. Four Chords and a Lie came out over the summer -- if you haven't had a chance yet, you should pounce on it now.

UPDATED: I kept confusing Beloved with Magnolia Mountain's third album, Town and Country. I was corrected by Mr. Utley himself!

Mark Utley -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, This Is American Music

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lost Souls and Locked Doors -- Rob Nance

Don't judge this book by its cover (though it's a damn nice one.) Rob Nance's newest release, an acoustic folk album, is as warm as it is captivating.

Nance's plainspoken lyrics and back-to-basics folk create a truly genuine portrait of the man himself. Between his voice and the strong melodies, Nance reminds me of power pop folkie Todd Thibaud -- no frills, just a lot of the good stuff.

You can download the album for free, or spend two Abe Lincolns on the physical album.

Rob Nance -- Official, Bandcamp

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tom McSod -- Caution Wet Floor

One time, I saw Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers live. When Roger walked in, thin and lanky and greasy, my immediate reaction was, "This man is a rascal."

So imagine how much character Tom McSod gives off when I can sense that through my headphones.

Caution Wet Floor is a badass collection of incredible songs. From the drunken ballad "Dirty Ol' Randall" to the sea shanty "Homeword Bound (Again)" (which features McSod's equally badass mom) to the standout piece of the album, "Wealthy Man's God," McSod revels in his person as a bottom feeder but shows that he's far smarter than the average barfly. Caution Wet Floor is as fun as it is gritty. Like cheap whiskey, it'll get your night going in the right direction, but it'll leave behind a sticky film the next day. In McSod's case, that's not a bad thing.

Dirty Ol' Randall

Wealthy Man's God

Homeword Bound (Again)

Tom McSod -- Facebook, Buy from Chainsmoking Records, CD Baby

Monday, November 4, 2013

Warsaw Pact

Upon request, Chinese-by-way-of-England rocker Guigui Suisui recommended some Japanese punk bands for me to check out. Most of them were way too hardcore for my taste (though I'll provide the list for your perusal later.) But that makes sense -- who's crazier than a British expat making a guitar out of a skateboard and a single bass string?

Oh yeah, this fucking guy.

A proudly proclaimed shoegazer (and selfie taker?) Warsaw Pact creates buzzy pop in what sounds like his bedroom. It drones, it irritates a little, but damn if it isn't catchy.

Warsaw Pact -- Official (Japanese), Myspace, Mixi

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sandra Phillips -- Too Many People in One Bed

There were a couple of reasons why I curled up in a ball this afternoon and started bawling for my ex.* But one of them was definitely Sandra Phillips' misery in "If You Get Him (He Never Was Mine)." That being said, most of the tracks are downright inspiring.

Too Many People In One Bed comes to us after 40-some years in record label limbo. The original label, Canyon, dissolved shortly before this album's release. Alive Naturalsounds has been reissuing a series of records produced by a gentleman who goes by Swamp Dogg.

But there's plenty on here for the casual soul listener like myself. You'll recognize the opener, "Rescue Song," and "Someday We'll Be Together." Phillips' voice may lack the depth of the singers who did ultimately popularize these songs, but she makes up for it (you know exactly what I was going to say.) But that's all in the past -- Phillips has gone on to become a successful actress on the stage and screen.

For a much more knowledgeable review, check out this loving guest post on Popa's Tunes.

Sandra Reaves- Phillips -- Buy from Alive Naturalsounds Records

*Note: I write these entries several days before publishing them, so this didn't happen at work. Thankfully.